Dogs tend to feel extremely connected to their humans, especially when they have lived with them since birth.
This attachment could get overwhelming sometimes, that dogs suffer from separation anxiety when their owners are away, just like the pug in this story named Shorty.
15-year-old Shorty has grown very attached to his human, Marc.
“The relationship between Marc and Shorty is very special. Marc is Shorty’s person. He just adores him and is the happiest when he is in Marc’s arms. When he was younger, Shorty would travel with Marc everywhere, but it’s not possible now with his age.
Marc calls Shorty his ‘angel’ dog. Shorty really taught Marc how to love and care for another living thing,”, Kristen, Marc’s wife, tells PEOPLE.
Together, the couple founded Vintage Pet Rescue in Rhode Island. It is a senior animal retirement home and hospice home committed to rescuing senior or terminally-ill pets from shelters and helping owners who aren’t able to care for their pets anymore.
“We are currently home to 34 adorable senior pups who get 2 meals a day, lots of supervised outdoor time, hours of cuddles, and comprehensive medical care.”, Kristen says.
Mark adopted Shorty when he was just a few years old. Since the dog is now a senior citizen, the couple had to find a way to quell his separation anxiety whenever Mark travels for work.
“Unfortunately, Marc has to travel a good amount for work and Shorty gets very anxious when he is away. Shorty will bark and cry and nothing will calm him down. He won’t even calm down if I am holding him. In the past, I tried putting one of Marc’s shirts on a pillow, but it didn’t really work. I felt so helpless trying to calm him down when Marc was away.”, Kristen says.
Thankfully, Kristen’s mother had this unconventional but brilliant idea that would help Shorty remain calm in Marc’s absence.
When she was over at Kristen’s one day, she noticed how upset the senior pug was. So she went home and ordered a life-sized mannequin from the Halloween store.
Kristen admits that when her mom told her about it, she thought that her mother “was nuts”, but decided to try it anyway.
The two women dressed the mannequin – who Kristen named Farc (short for Fake-Marc) – in Marc’s already worn shirt and hat so that it would smell like him.
They also added fake tattoo sleeves because the real Marc had tattoos on his arms. When they were done dressing up Farc, they plopped him on the couch and observed what would happen.
It worked! Shorty happily snuggled with the mannequin. Kristen says:
“Shorty’s reaction was truly incredible. He had been crying and barking all day. I put him on Farc’s lap and wrapped the arms around him. He snuggled into the shirt and he was asleep within a half hour. He slept like that through the night. I was amazed. I really could not believe that it worked!”
But as it turns out, it wasn’t only Shorty who would be cuddling with Farc. The other dogs also come over to him and make themselves comfortable. Kristen says that the mannequin has “one pup (or multiple pups) sitting on its lap or sitting at its feet.”
They began posting pictures of Farc with his furry senior buddies on their social media accounts and as expected, the photos went viral.
Kristen says that many people have been sending her messages, telling her that they would be trying to replicate this strategy for their own dogs who suffer from separation anxiety.
“Since posting Farc on social media I’ve had a few people reach out to me to tell me that they also bought a mannequin for their dog that has separation anxiety. I really think this might be a great thing for shelters!” Kristen explained.
However, Real-Marc was a little hurt that his Shorty could be fooled by “a brainless dummy”. But after realizing how much of a help it was to Shorty and the other dogs in the shelter, he became okay with it. Besides, the mannequin was hurting no one, right?
Thanks to Kristen’s mom for spawning this brilliant idea! Now, other dog owners will be trying this for their own pets, and we can only hope that it works for them too.